Hong Kong authorities are warning of an even more severe fourth wave of coronavirus infections after identifying a new group of cases at three restaurants that may be linked to the ever-expanding “super-spreader” dance venue cluster.
More than 10 servers, cleaners and patrons at the three restaurants – Stellar House in Wan Chai, 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central, and Chuen Cheung Kui in Sheung Wan – have been confirmed sick, with authorities adding the venues to the mandatory testing list.
The city recorded 115 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest daily increase since August 1, when it saw 125 new infections. Of those, 62 were linked to the dance venue cluster, bringing the city's largest coronavirus outbreak so far to 479 cases.
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“We have yet to find any epidemiological links between the cases from the three restaurants, but we won’t rule out the possibility that we have not found infected people who visited these places,” said Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch.
“We are very concerned, because both staff and customers have been infected,” she added.
It was difficult to determine exactly how the virus had spread within the restaurants, but authorities have classified the cases as a cluster because front-of-house servers, chefs, cleaners and patrons had all been infected, indicating an outbreak.
It was possible for staff and customers to pass the coronavirus to each other, especially if they had been chatting, Chuang said.
Chuang also did not rule out the possibility that the restaurant infections could be linked to the still-growing dance venue cluster, which is being regarded as a “super-spreader” group.
“The dance cluster is so big, it is also likely the [restaurant cases] came from them, but we would still have to wait for the genetic analysis to be sure,” she said.
“Looking at the situation now, it seems the fourth wave will be more severe than the previous one.”
Chuang noted that people from the dance venue cluster also took part in other activities outside of dancing, such as teaching piano or classes at community centres, meaning they could have spread the virus to a wide range of people in society.
Separately, a staff member at the Fong Shu Chuen Day Activity Centre and Hostel, operated by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, was also among Sunday’s infections, while a resident also tested preliminarily positive, prompting the evacuation of nearly 50 residents.
The centre provides day training for people with intellectual disabilities, and Chuang said the situation sometimes made mask-wearing on the premises difficult.
A staff member at another centre run by the Tung Wah Group in Tai Kok Tsui, the Ho Yuk Ching Willow Lodge, which provides care services to the elderly, has also tested preliminary positive for the coronavirus.
Health authorities are still unsure if residents at the homes had left the centres at any time.
Several schools will also have to shut down, including Saint Clare’s Primary School in Sai Ying Pun, where all staff and students must undergo testing after a 10-year-old student tested positive.
St. Paul’s Co-educational College and Cho Yiu Catholic Primary School will also have to be closed temporarily, as they were attended by close contacts of confirmed infections.
Sunday’s confirmed infections also included 24 with unknown origins, among them housewives who did not leave home much, and other individuals who had attended many social gatherings, Chuang said.
She urged people to reduce any unnecessary gatherings and cancel dining events to minimise the chances of catching or spreading the virus to more people.
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